’Twas two weeks before Christmas, and “Community” was new; but everyone was animated, and Abed confused.


“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”

Thursday’s “Community” will join the tried-and-true holiday tradition of stop-motion claymation in “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” The episode, written by series creator Dan Harmon and Dino Stamatopoulos (who plays “Star-Burns”), follows Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) as he searches for the meaning of this special, claymated Christmas.

“Every day is so different and unique, and once they presented this script to us about this episode and said that we were going to be in stop motion, I was — I mean, we were all so excited,” Pudi said in a conference call last week.

The episode begins like a normal “Community” episode, with the only difference being the stop-motion style. As fans would expect, Abed is the first and only character to notice and decide the new medium is what makes this Christmas special.

“And then we go on this magical journey through a winter wonderland,” Pudi explained, “including a trip down Gumdrop Road — which I have always wanted to go down — and a number of other places, and I think we all learned a little bit about the meaning of Christmas to us as a study group.”

Since the beginning of NBC’s understated comedy about Greendale Community College, Abed has been a clear scene-stealer with his deadpan dialogue and slick pop culture references. And it’s no secret that the other characters — and most of the audience — find him a bit eccentric.

Pudi said that before his character was cast, Abed was supposed to be Palestinian. When Pudi, who is half-Indian and half-Polish, got the part, Abed became half-Polish as well. Pudi grew up with traditional Polish Catholic Christmas celebrations, while his fictional alter-ego grew up Muslim with Catholic and Christian influences.

“(Abed) is probably a big fan of Chevy Chase’s ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,’ ” Pudi said. Ironically, Chase plays Pierce Hawthorne, the elderly Greendale student who makes Creed from “The Office” seem normal.

For Pudi, being an animated character in tonight’s episode is just one of many dreams that “Community” is helping him realize.

“You know, it’s very bizarre,” Pudi explained. “One day, you’re working with Chevy Chase and the next day you’re going to visit a claymation studio where they have a doll of you.

“I met one of the ladies who was making the doll. Actually, I saw her away from set … someplace in Los Angeles. She’s like, ‘I recognize you because I’ve been working on your doll.’ I was like, ‘That’s definitely another first.’ ”

Stop-motion interests Pudi, who has a dual degree in communications and theatre from Marquette University and previously worked in improvisational comedy. But, he had never done voiceover work before and found it to be a challenging way to convey emotions.

“We’re all sort of kids in a sandbox in preschool — except that we’re all adults at Greendale,” he said of the new medium. “But we’re essentially doing the same thing. We’re all learning from each other and being like, ‘Well, this is how I’ve done it. How do you guys do it?’ And I think that’s largely the reason why we like to celebrate holidays. Plus, they’re just fun — and there’s a dance.

“And the script is really, really funny and really sharp, but also kind of goes to these places where, I think, with the stop-motion, we’re able to go a little bit further in terms of, you know, even more emotional depth and some of the sadness of the characters, too,” he added.

Pudi hopes that the Christmas episode will help bring characters together in a way that traditional episodes cannot.

“Yes, I think it’s going to rival ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ for our generation,” he said. “At least that’s our hope.”

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